A timber harvest in Nassahegon State Forest on the east side of Stone Road is expected to begin Monday, Sept. 25.
The total area is about 43 acres and was prescribed in the long-term forest management plan for Nassahegon, that was the subject of a presentation to the Land Trust and Conservation Commission several years ago. This is the first harvest taking place under this management plan, and the first commercial size harvest at the forest in 15 years.
The natural resource objectives are twofold, and a cooperative effort of the DEEP Forestry Division and the Wildlife Division. DEEP will create early successional habitat for the great array of declining species that require it, including New England cottontail and many migratory songbirds and traditional “game” birds, such as eastern towhee, common yellowthroat, indigo bunting, prairie warbler, whip-poor-will, woodcock, yellow-breasted chat, and white-eyed vireo among many others.
DEEP also hope to grow a new oak forest. Part of the area is a clearcut and part is a “shelterwood”, which is a regeneration method where the final overstory trees are not removed for a few years to preserve a temporary seed source.
As a cover type, oak forests are in gradual decline in Connecticut during this century due to the lack of disturbance regimes that allowed oak to become established to begin with. Oak species are not tolerant of shade, so disturbances from heavy cutting of the canopy, and even fire, give the trees a competitive edge. As previously discussed in an early narrative of mine here on the Land Trust website, oak forests largely became established as the predominant type due to the sudden loss of chestnut forests to disease, large and rampant wildfires, clearcutting for charcoal, and a lack of deer browse. Today, many of our oak forests are giving way to black birch, red maple, and beech. Studies have shown that oak provides for a greater diversity of insect and bird life as well as many other wildlife species that consume their highly nutritious hard mast (acorns). Deer, turkey, black bear, and grouse all depend on acorns in Connecticut more than any other food source to put on their winter fat layers to get through the winter.
The lack of age class diversity in most of the state is also an issue to address in this type of operation. While Connecticut is currently about 59% forest cover, most of it is roughly the same age, a century or more old. Breaking up the age classes across the landscape and creating younger forest not only makes wildlife habitat more diverse, but begins to create a more resilient forest less susceptible to catastrophic damage from major weather or insect and disease events.
At the Stone Road logging, only tree felling will take place to start the operation for a few days. The staging area (landing) for trucking and log sorting will be near the south end of the state forest frontage on Stone Road, near an old light pole gate. This work area will be visible from the public gravel road, but the actual timber harvest does not begin until about a quarter-mile into the woods.
There are no authorized trails through the logging area, although people do sometimes use the old roadbeds that traverse this area. Signs will be put up on that side of Stone Road requesting that the public stay out of this entire area during the logging for safety. If you are one that enjoys the east side of Stone at times, please avoid that for the coming season or two, for your own safety.
NEMBA (New England Mountain Biking Association) trails are not affected, as there are none on the east side of Stone Road. There is a CFPA Blue Trail along the northern boundary of the harvest, but the trail will not be crossed and no trees are marked within about 100 feet of this trail, unless it is proven necessary for salvage for safety. That trail can still be hiked during the logging, but just be sure to stay far away if you hear chainsaws or heavy equipment working. Do not wander off the trail into the harvest area, even when quiet. Some (but not all) of the old roadways within the logging area of the forest will be left open when done, for emergency access and future firebreak use.
One unexpected twist on this harvest is the heavy but very localized appearance of millions of hungry gypsy moth caterpillars early this summer. Some of the parent trees that were supposed to be saved as a seed source for the next half-dozen years will not survive until next summer in the shelterwood area (stand 7-1B on the map). Some of these trees (virtually all are white oak) may unfortunately also have to be removed due to gypsy moth damage. There were many oaks that were unsuccessful at resprouting leaves this year and those trees are not expected to recover and survive another growing season. So this mortality is causing DEEP to modify plans a little in some of the area and salvage trees that are dead or nearly dead.
The logging work is being operated and managed by Brad Cordtsen, a Connecticut Certified Supervising Forest Products Harvester. In Connecticut, professional foresters and loggers must be certified by the state.
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